Star Trek News and Analysis

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) Star Trek scandals. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: 15 Dark Behind-The-Scenes Secrets You Never Knew”.

  1. The series creator tried to ruin Wrath of Khan

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was over-budget and underwhelming. In response, Paramount removed Gene Roddenberry as Executive Producer and made him a consultant. They brought in Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett to shepherd the sequel, The Wrath of Khan. Only, Leonard Nimoy was going through a phase all Trek actors have: he was sick of playing the character and wanted out. To appease him, it was decided that Spock would be killed off early on.

Then, “somehow,” the script was leaked, and fans had a shared nervous breakdown. The source of the leak was never truly revealed, but the actors and producers largely accept that Gene himself leaked the pages of the script. He was vocal about not wanting Spock killed off and was frustrated with the darker plot, as well as the theme of growing into middle age. He wanted to sabotage the project, or at least have Spock’s death taken out of the script. In the end, it was just rearranged, and, if anything, it made the film even better.

(2) Star Trek controversies: Next, ScreenRant totes up the “15 Most Controversial Things Star Trek Has Done”. Call this the controversial kiss compilation.

  1. Trill Wives Kiss

For all of its inclusiveness regarding things like race and class, Star Trek has always been a bit skittish about portraying gay characters. One of the reasons for this might be how much their simple explorations of any kind of same-sex romance riled audiences up. We can see that at play with Deep Space Nine’s episode “Rejoined”.

While they were introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, DS9 let us fully explore the aliens known as Trills. Science Officer Jadzia Dax is one such alien, and she hosts a symbiote that has inhabited generations of previous Trills. In “Rejoined”, Dax is reunited with another Trill who used to be her wife in a previous life. Despite cultural laws forbidding it, the two resume their old relationship, giving us our first onscreen, same-sex kiss in Trek history.

The moment was sweet, but very controversial, with some TV stations refusing to air the episode and others editing the kiss out. Paramount was inundated with negative phone calls regarding the episode, forcing staff to work back-to-back shifts just to deal with the volume of calls. While the episode has aged well, Trek hasn’t done much more in terms of gay representation.

(3) Undeveloped Star Trek episodes: Memory Alpha knows about the “Undeveloped Star Trek episodes”.

In his introduction to the 1994 book Lost Voyages of Trek and The Next Generation (p. 3), Edward Gross commented, “Perhaps most surprising in the Star Trek mythos is the sheer quantity – and in many cases quality – of unfilmed adventures that have spanned from the original through various aborted attempts at revival throughout the 1970s and right in to The Next Generation. In many cases, these scripts and treatments were left unfilmed due to political reasons, studio indecisiveness or ego. In others, they just weren’t up to snuff and probably wouldn’t have made a decent episode of Lost in Space.

(4) Star Trek writers talk about the unsold spec stories they wrote and pitched. Vulture talks to the writers about “8 Star Trek Spec Scripts That Never Saw the Light of Day”.

Almost every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series begins, “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization. To boldly go where no man has gone before.” The opening promised a whole new world of adventure and discovery. And this utopia of exciting new ideas expanded beyond the screen all the way to its writers room: Star Trek had a famous open-submission policy, meaning any writer, anywhere, could submit a script.

The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager helped launch the careers of several great TV writers. Ron D. Moore (Outlander, Battlestar Galactica), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods), and René Echevarria (Teen Wolf, Terra Nova, The 4400) all got their start pitching for the show. But spec writing, obviously, didn’t always lead to success (not the first time at least). Sometimes your episode would get produced, sometimes it would get you in the door to pitch, and sometimes, well, you just had to keep trying….

Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time, Husbands, Battlestar Galactica)

The only [spec] whose plot I recall at the moment was the one that got me invited in to pitch at the show. It was about Data using the holodeck to put himself in situations calculated to evoke strong emotions, hoping to feel happiness or love … but when the simulation goes awry (someone reprogrammed it? I forget), he does get a taste of emotion, but it ends up being anger. He has to confront the downside of being like a human being — not all emotions are positive. It reads like it sounds — a fun little thought experiment, certainly not enough to provide the spine of an episode. But it got me in the door!

(5) Jason Isaacs interview: The incoming captain tells Entertainment Weekly how much he admires the archetype — Star Trek’s Jason Isaacs explains why William Shatner is a genius”.

Yeah, what he’s doing with really tough dialogue in those scenes, the way he knows which lines to just casually throw away and others where he just really sells it.

It’s so tough. He sells everything. People who think he’s hammy are people responding to other people doing funny impressions of him. If you watch the original he’s utterly brilliant. He was one of Canada’s top Shakespearian actors. He brings that level of commitment and epic high stakes to what could have been ridiculous dialogue. He and [Leonard] Nimoy together were a genius double. Anyone who thinks they’re hammy should try to do it themselves. I’m trying to do it now and, I’m telling you, it’s not easy.

Pixel Scroll 10/10/17 Eric And The Dread Pixel Scroll

(0) TRAINING COMPLETED. Thanks to you who wished me a good trip to New Mexico for my mother’s 91st birthday celebration. I’d say your wishes were effective, not only because we had a fine reception and dinner, but because my Amtrak experience was far superior to that of the folks who left Los Angeles aboard the previous day’s Southwest Chief. The Santa Fe New Mexican has the story

Passengers and crew aboard a Chicago-bound Amtrak train spent the night stopped in Northern New Mexico hill country after the lead engine struck a boulder and partially derailed.

No serious injuries were reported, but the two engineers in the lead engine were taken to a hospital for evaluation, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Friday from Chicago.

The incident occurred Thursday evening on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in a rural area near Watrous about 105 miles northeast of Albuquerque.

…The train’s second engine and all the cars remained on the tracks and the train still had power, heating and toilet service while it remained at the derailment site, the Amtrak spokesman said.

Not to overstate things — I would have missed the excitement anyway, since my destination was one of the last stops before they hit the rock, however, it still felt like a narrow escape.

(1) RUH ROH! Last month Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared the long history behind “Why Amazing Stories Isn’t Back on NBC”. However, over the weekend the media reported “Steven Spielberg will revive ’80s NBC series ‘Amazing Stories’ for Apple”.

Apple is making a major statement on its television ambitions as it nears an acquisition of an original series from filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The tech giant is close to a deal to buy a new version of Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” the Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology series that ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987.

NBCUniversal, which co-owns the rights to the property, confirmed that an agreement is imminent. Apple declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal Tuesday.

A scripted series with the imprimatur of Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s most-heralded producer-directors thanks to “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, and his company Amblin Television, will be a demonstration of the tech giant’s clout as it enters the television business…

More as the story develops.

(2) PUPPY LOVE. Yahoo! says get your Kleenex ready — “Carrie Fisher’s dog watching the new ‘Star Wars’ trailer will destroy you”.

Millions of Star Wars fans watched the new trailer for The Last Jedi on Monday night — including one very good boy.

A photo of Gary, Carrie Fisher’s beloved French bulldog, was posted to his official Instagram account on Monday, and, guys, we’re warning you — it’s going to make you whimper….

(3) WHO ARE YOU? Jim C. Hines, in “A Plea to Conventions About Name Badges”, asks conventions to fix a problem that people have been complaining about the entire time I’m been in fandom.

I have a favor to ask of conventions: please design your badges so that names can be easily and clearly read.

I’ve never been good with names. It’s frustrating as hell, and it’s become a bigger problem as I travel to more conventions. I get introduced to so many people, and within 24 hours, a lot of those names escape my brain like Batman villains from Arkham Asylum.

Jim provides illustrations of what works for him, and what doesn’t.

(4) A NEW YORK COMIC CON STATE OF MIND. The Washington Post’s Aaron Gregg, in “Marvel cancels comic book deal with Northrop Grumman after Twitter backlash”, says that Marvel cancelled a proposed partnership with Northrop Grumman (whose “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” superheroes were supposed to team up with The Avengers) after lots of fans objected, noting, among other things, that Tony Stark gave up his defense contracts.

Marvel teased the partnership Friday morning in a tweet that promised more details in a presentation the following day at the New York Comic-Con festival. A retro-style comic book cover temporarily posted on Marvel’s website featured a team of “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” super heroes fighting alongside Marvel’s popular Avengers superheroes. The cover was quickly scrubbed from the company’s website, but not before it went viral on Twitter.

Twitter users ridiculed Marvel, accusing it of partnering with “death merchants.” Some pointed out that the Marvel character Iron Man, alias Tony Stark, had been the billionaire CEO of a company that built advanced weaponry but had turned his back on the weapons business after seeing its effects. Angry fans called out specific Marvel executives, and at least one suggested publicly protesting the issue at Marvel’s Comic-Con booth.….

(5) SZECHUAN LETDOWN. Meanwhile, another corporation was breaking hearts in the culinary arena. Michael Cavna and Maura Judkis, in “McDonald’s botched its ‘Rick and Morty’ Szechuan sauce stunt, and fans are not happy”, report that McDonald’s has disappointed thousands of viewers of the Cartoon Network show Rick and Morty. After 45,000 people signed a Change.org petition inspired by the show calling on the company to bring back Szechuan Sauce (originally created to promote Mulan in 1998), McDonalds promised select locations would have the sauce, but only a few did.

One Washington Post reporter was among those “Rick and Morty” fans who went questing Saturday for the fabled sauce, driving to three Maryland locations — one of them listed as an official “participating” outlet — and none had received a Szechuan shipment. One restaurant tried to pawn off Sriracha sauce. Another tried to sell the tangy Signature sauce. And a third outlet’s shift manager came to the drive-thru window to apologize profusely — clearly this wasn’t her first “Rick and Morty”-related apology of the day.

(6) REMEMBER WHEN? The Atlantic bills this article as “Revisiting Star Trek’s Most Political Episode” – which is saying something about a series that often delivered messages.

“It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they’ve given up.” This was how Commanding Officer Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, described early 21st-century Americans in an episode from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When it aired in 1995, “Past Tense” spoke to contemporary concerns about homelessness by telling a story set in 2024—the near future for viewers, but the distant past for characters. In the two-part episode, Sisko and two of his companions from the U.S.S. Defiant find themselves stranded in San Francisco, where they’re reminded that the federal government had once set up a series of so-called “Sanctuary Districts” in a nationwide effort to seal off homeless Americans from the general population. Stuck in 2024, Sisko, who is black—along with his North African crewmate Dr. Julian Bashir and the fair-skinned operations officer Jadzia Dax—must contend with unfamiliar racism, classism, violence, and Americans’ apparent apathy toward human suffering.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Tiaan Jerjerrod was the project manager of the second Death Star, which was destroyed at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Supervising Jerjerrod was Emperor Palpatine’s right-hand man, Darth Vader. (Source: Death Star II: A Project Management Case Study.)

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day, whose goal is to “… raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths.” (Wikipedia)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 10, 1965 — The Red Baron first appeared in  Peanuts comic strip.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EXPLORER

  • Born October 10, 1861 — Fridjtof Nansen, whose arctic navigation inspired fellow Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. His ship, Fram, shares a museum with Kon Tiki and Ra.

(11) COMIC SECTION.

Martin Morse Wooster approves this “old school groaner” in today’s Frank and Ernest.

(12) SCI-FI SWINGS LIKE A PENDULUM DO. In “‘Blade Runner 2049’: Why some science fiction writers are tired of dystopias”, a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, several sff authors suggest that they are tired of the wave of grim visions of humanity’s future. Is it time to create more works around an optimistic future based on expanding technology and human understanding?

In “Blade Runner 2049,” which opens Friday, post eco-disaster Los Angeles has built a massive coastline wall to fend off rising ocean levels. Few of the overpopulated city’s human or android occupants have ever seen a tree or a real animal. The incessant rain is as dour as Harrison Ford’s facial expressions. Worst of all? One character bemoans the fact that there’s no more cheese in the world.

Recent dystopian blockbusters seem to be jostling in a grim race to be the first to reach the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.” But some science-fiction writers are tired of the sorts of pessimistic futures depicted in movies and TV shows such as “The Hunger Games,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Black Mirror,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In response, influential authors Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, and Kim Stanley Robinson argue that futuristic fiction should, instead, offer an inspiring outlook about mankind’s ability to shape its destiny. But do the kinds of stories we tell ourselves have a cultural impact on shaping a better tomorrow?

“I want to nod at something that Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker about the dangers of drowning ourselves in dystopian stories,” says Christopher Robichaud, who teaches a class at Harvard Extension School on Utopia and Dystopia in fiction and philosophy. “The utility dystopian fiction used to serve was to bring problems to our attention and seek solutions. But the danger is that these stories can become a collective act of despair in response to current events.”

(13) SPACE TUTOR. In “Astronaut encourages kids to flip for STEM”, the Washington Post’s Marylou Tousignant says that the Air and Space Museum recently hosted a webcast with astronaut Randy Bresnik on the International Space Station where he had floating candy and showed kids an official NASA barf Bag.

If you could ask an astronaut orbiting in space any question, what would it be?

Students from several Washington-area schools got to do that recently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as part of its “STEM in 30” program.

Among other things, they wanted to know: Is it hard to move around up there? Can you watch TV? How do you know when it’s time for bed? What if you get sick?

(14) GRIM TIDINGS PODCAST SEEKS SUPPORT. The hosts of the Grim Tidings Podcast have invited fans to support them via Patreon.  Rob Matheny and Philip Overby focus on interviewing authors, editors, and agents working within the Grimdark sub-genre.  They have recorded over 100 episodes including luminaries from the field such as Joe Abercrombie, C.T. Phipps, Anna Smith Spark, Brian Stavely, Michael R. Fletcher, Sebastien De Castell, Laura M. Hughes, and Deborah A. Wolf.

(15) HAIR APPARENT. Is singing songs like this the real reason John Scalzi constantly needs to think up new names for his band?

(Just kidding – I laughed….)

(16) A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. Alex Acks finds more to criticize about fantasy maps in a post for Tor.com — “Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth”.

…So what is it about the mighty Anduin that makes me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise? There are four main factors, in ascending order based on how easily I’m able to mentally excuse each point.

It cuts across two mountain ranges.

There is one fact you really need to understand to grasp the basics of how rivers work. Ready? Water flows downhill. That’s it. That’s the secret. Water flows downhill, and as it flows it tends to erode sediment and transport it downstream, and over long enough periods of time, that gets us our classic V-shaped river valleys and a ton of other morphological features. Which is why, when a river is on a collision course with mountains—normally places where the elevation goes up—you have to stare at it for a minute.

This is the easiest oddity for me to find an excuse for—because it is actually something that happens in reality! For example, the Colorado River cuts pretty much perpendicularly through the entire Basin and Range Province of North America. And the reason this works is because the Colorado was here before all that extensional tectonic silliness happened and the basins started dropping down from the ranges—and that process of down-drop was slow enough, relative to the ability of the Colorado to cut its own channel, that the river didn’t get permanently trapped in one of the basins.

So if we make the assumption that the Anduin existed before the mountains—and assume that the mountains uplifted in a natural way, thank you—it’s very possible for it to have cut down fast enough to maintain its course despite uplift. (Keep this in mind, we’ll be coming back to it later…)

(17) KEEP ON SWIMMING. And over the weekend Camestros Felapton gave us “Even More Plot Elements of Fantasy Maps”.

Big Islands

In Earthsea islands are large and numerous, in Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, islands barely appear and are small. In both cases they are locations and destinations and themselves contain terrain.

In Tolkien’s wider work, Númenor is the most notable island – a version of Atlantis, which itself gives us a classic inspiration for islands in Western literature. Oceanic islands can be countries with their own terrain but cut off from surroundings. Le Guin depicts the islands of Earthsea more like medieval era city-states with a wider common culture but no central authority.

It is interesting to me that Tolkien, who draws on many aspects of Britain and Britishness in building Middle Earth, avoids the island quality of Britain. This despite a tendency to mythologize the insular quality of Britain in English propaganda-history both in high-culture (Shakespeare’s ‘sceptered isle’) and low-culture (‘fog in the channel, continent cut off’). George R.R. Martin’s Westeros does this by having it be an eratz England circa the War of the Roses (with Scotland being another place full of ice zombies). Westeros’s scale seems flexible but it’s primary plot role as an island is to be a container. Events are within Westeros (up to the Wall) or beyond (either over the wall or on another continent).

The point being – oceanic islands are treated as political units rather than as terrain.

(18) JUXTAPOSITION. The title of Max Florschutz’ latest post halted me in my tracks — “Being a Better Writer Delayed” — until I remembered “Being a Better Writer” is a recurring topic at his Unusual Things blog.

(19) HOLY BLEEP. Camestros Felapton subjected his precious bodily fluids to a famous corporation’s bizarre new offering, “Coca-cola with coffee”.

…There is also a weird slimy quality to it. It’s like drinking coke but a bit more unpleasant.

The coffee is “real” and from Brazil. If I was Brazil I might object to the free advertising.

(20) X-FILES SEASON 11 TRAILER. The truth etc. etc.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Christian Brunschen, Chip Hitchcock, Dann, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 3/11/17 It’s Always In The Last Pixel You Scroll

(1) VAMPIRE DIARIES GOES GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT. As the series goes off the air, The Guardian asks “Better than Buffy? Spare a thought for the Vampire Diaries”.

The eight-season run of the Vampire Diaries ended quietly on Friday night, without a hint of the outsized media fanfare so liberally bestowed on series finales in television’s so-called golden age. The glossy adaptation of LJ Smith’s young-adult novel series, even before its latter-season decline in form and ratings, never did inspire the type of sophisticated critiques reserved for the major-network or cable darlings. But even amid a landscape that’s only been further crowded by the emergence of Netflix and Amazon, there is a place for the pure concentrated entertainment that was offered up for years by the CW’s deliciously pulpy supernatural soap opera. Television will be poorer – and a less fun place – without it.

(2) HUGO REMINDER. Worldcon 75 sent members an alert that the deadline to nominate for the Hugos is only days away.

Even if you have already submitted nominations, you may update your selections as long as the nomination period continues. But we recommend that you do so in advance of the deadline to avoid any problems in the final hours when the system will be very busy.

You may make changes to your nominations until 17 March 2017 at 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time (2:59am Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 Greenwich Mean Time, 08:59 in Finland, all on 18 March), by using the following link to sign in again:

(3) FOLLOW THAT CAT. Timothy the Talking Cat has stolen the keys to Camestros Felapton’s blog and posted his own “appalling” Hugo slate

Remember that this year the rules have changed! The social justice witches have put their broomsticks together and decided that you can no longer just vote for Dune over and over again. But no fear! As a grandmaster of non-euclidean hyperbolic  7-dimensional chequers, I can adjust my plans accordingly. See below!

(4) DEEP POCKETS. The Deep Space: Nine Documentary by Ira Steven Behr, David Zappone and Adam Nimoy hit 420% of its Indiegogo goal. The extra money will be used to add 50% more latinum minutes to the video, and lots of bonus features. Space.com has the story — “’Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Doc Warps Way Beyond Crowdfunding Goal”.

 After nearly quadrupling their Indiegogo goal to produce a new documentary on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (DS9), the creators are busy trying to figure out how to best deploy their newfound wealth.

Today (March 10) is the final day of the campaign to produce “What We Left Behind,” and backers on the crowdfunding site have raised more than $575,000 for the film. The show is co-led by DS9 showrunner Ira Steven Behr, produced by David Zappone and directed by Adam Nimoy. Zappone and Nimoy are known for the 2016 documentary “For The Love of Spock,” and Zappone also produced the 2011 “Star Trek” documentary “The Captains.”

In an interview with Space.com, Behr and Nimoy, who is the son of the first “Star Trek” series’ actor Leonard Nimoy, said they are reconfiguring their plans for the now 90-minute documentary, which is 30 minutes longer than their original vision, because of the extraordinary response to the crowdfunding effort.

(5) CHEATERS EVER PROSPER. Naked Security analyzes “How online gamers use malware to cheat”.

“We typically think of malware as something used to steal data from corporations or knock down websites in politically motivated attacks.  But if you’re a gamer, sometimes it’s simply a tool for winning. “SophosLabs threat researcher Tamás Boczán has been studying this trend, and recently gave a talk about it at BSides Budapest.  This article reviews his findings and offers us a chance to share some of his presentation slides.”

…As cases of cheating have risen, so have the examples of anti-cheat technology from various companies. As various sides have upped the ante, both sides have drawn in people of greater skill. He said:

Hacking an online game is not that easy any more. In the old days, script kiddies could to do it, but now hacking is a serious game that requires a skilled attacker. So why would a skilled attacker waste their time and skill on a video game?

He mapped out the sequence of events this way:

  • All this was originally about having fun.
  • Then the gaming industry grew.
  • The games went online.
  • People began to cheat for profit, just as hackers often do when targeting companies.
  • In response, an anti-cheating movement has sprouted up that mirrors security companies….

(6) FORGEHAM OBIT. John Forgeham (1941-2017): British actor, died Friday, aged 75. Best-known for a long-running role in the UK soap Crossroads, other screen appearances included The Avengers (one episode, 1965), The Stone Tape (1972), Sheena (1984), T-Bag and the Rings of Olympus (one episode, 1991).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1818 Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is published

(8) LE GUIN’S NEXT BOOK. Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay collection No Time to Spare comes out December 5.

Her next book, No Time to Spare, will be a collection of recent essays. It comes with an introduction from Karen Joy Fowler, who, like Le Guin, knows a thing or two about writing across genres.

As Fowler notes in her introduction to the collection, Le Guin is currently enjoying a moment of mainstream cultural appreciation: Filmmaker Arwen Curry recently raised funds on Kickstarter for a documentary on the author, The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, and back in October, The New Yorker ran a profile on Le Guin and her enduring influence.

You can read an excerpt from Fowler’s introduction at the linked post.

(9) BURIAL IN SPACE. At Krypton Radio, Thaddeus Howze reviews the long history of Star Trek, then dares to ask: Is it time to retire the franchise?

My point of all of this review is this: Since Star Trek: Enterprise as well as the three Kelvin Timeline Star Treks, (Star Trek (2009), Star Trek: Into Darkness and Star Trek: Beyond) we have stopped looking to the future. Star Trek has become as lame as the political rhetoric many of us despise in our real lives…

“Make America Great Again” is the rallying cry used to talk about the past as if it were some great thing to be reclaimed and returned to. When the truth of the matter is the past is never as good as it seems and to seek refuge in the past is to deny the present and refute the future altogether.

CBS’ latest television series Star Trek: Discovery also takes place in the past (presumably the original timeline past, not the Kelvin Universe past) some time after Archer but before (or maybe during Kirk’s Enterprise) period. What we do know is this is not a far future Star Trek.

It is not an extrapolation of all we can be. It is not a look at the future of Humanity at our best and our worst. It is a remix of Treks, mashing costumes, designs, ships, and probably stories.

(10) SHADOW CLARKE DOINGS. The Shadow Clarke Jury’s latest activity includes two reviews and a FAQ.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season casts a long shadow on the Clarke submissions list, having won the Hugo Award for Best Novel last year and having been shortlisted for almost everything else. Thousands of words have already been spent praising it, critiquing it, speculating about it online since it came out in the US in 2015 and I imagine few people reading this are encountering it for the first time. In spite of its pedigree I was sceptical going in. The only other book by Jemisin I’d read – The Killing Moon – wasn’t a highlight. I thought its excellent world-building came at the expense of almost everything else. Then there was the thorny issue of eligibility and whether or not The Fifth Season conforms to the Clarke requirement that books be science fiction rather than more broadly speculative. When I shortlisted it I did so partly because it offers an opportunity to wade into the eligibility question and partly as a test for myself, to see if I would admire it as much as everyone else. I almost hoped I wouldn’t because, let’s be honest, it’s easier to talk about what doesn’t work in fiction than what does.  Also, dissent prompts debate and this project is all about that. But, sorry folks, I’m afraid I’m about to tell a familiar story. The Fifth Season is just as good as everyone said it was and the genre controversy is dead in the water. It’s perfectly eligible for the Clarke Award.

Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun is a tale about loss, in the form of a gender-stiffening social experiment wrapped in a family drama murder mystery, suffused with oppressive norms, self-delusional recounting, and fabulist nostalgia for a world that once was that actually never was. It’s the kind of novel that joins the ranks of extreme, performative, sociological SF, in the vein of Brunner, Ballard, and Pohl, and the feminist dystopias of Atwood, Russ, and Tiptree. It’s the kind of book that people will say doesn’t belong because a.) it isn’t needed in this age of post-women’s lib, b.) its agenda involves too much agenda, and c.) it isn’t science-y enough. But, as the list of authors cited above indicates, precedence invalidates these kinds of arguments.

What is the Arthur C. Clarke Award Shadow Jury?

An initiative developed by Nina Allan and hosted by the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy beginning in 2017, the Shadow Jury is a panel of talented, passionate members of the SF community who come up with their own personal shortlists and winners for a given year.

(11) CRITICAL MASS. Charles Payseur analyzes the nature of book reviewing and his own reasons for doing it.

Let me say that there’s a great many reasons why people review. Some want to become authorities on a particular form or genre. They want to be engaged in creating a canon or they want to help determine the boundaries of genres or any number of other things that essentially boil down to gatekeeping. They want to be able to say what is and what is not, what should and what should not be considered when talking about science fiction or literary fiction or horror. When they review they might refuse to look at certain works because they don’t cleave close enough to what they expect and enjoy. This is not the kind of reviewer I hope to be. And there are reviewers out there who just want to express their opinions as honestly as they can. They want to go onto Goodreads and Amazon and rank what they liked good and what they didn’t bad and concentrate mostly on their immediate reaction to a story or work. This is actually much closer to what I do but it’s not quite what I aim for….

(12) KONG KILLED AGAIN. Reader’s Digest version – Locus film reviewer Gary Westfahl says the new Kong movie sucks little black rocks – “Bungle in the Jungle: A Review of Kong: Skull Island.

Kong: Skull Island actually begins quite promisingly, as we are introduced to a diverse and generally appealing cast of characters, and they gather together to journey to the mysterious Skull Island and confront the enormous, and initially hostile, King Kong (also glimpsed in a prologue). One briefly imagines that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has finally achieved what John Guillermin (in 1976) and Peter Jackson (in 2005) could not achieve – namely, a King Kong film that recaptures the charm and élan of Merian C. Cooper’s classic 1933 production. Unfortunately, the film devolves into an iterative, and increasingly unpleasant, series of variations on the two basic set pieces observed in all giant monster movies: humans vs. monster, and monster vs. monster; and the only suspense involves which character will next be dispatched to a gory demise….

 (13) RED PLANET RADIO. It’s Mars Season on BBC Radio 4, with fiction, interviews, documentaries, and quizzes.

William Shatner introduces the “We Are The Martians” series, which explores the Mars of imagination, science and history.

[Thanks to Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Steve Green, John King Tarpinian, and David K.M.Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Speculative Fiction Has Screen Endurance

By Carl Slaughter: Supernatural is still on the air after 12 seasons.

  • Smallville and the original Stargate both lasted 10 seasons.

  • X-Files and Touched by an Angel lasted 9 seasons.
  • Vampire Diaries and Charmed, 8 seasons each.

  • Game of Thrones and Walking Dead, still going at 7 seasons.

  • Outer Limits, Buffy, Sabrina, Medium, and Crypt, 7 seasons.

  • Star Trek spinoffs: Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, 7 seasons each.

  • Lost, True Blood, Highlander, and Xena, 6 seasons.

  • Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, Heroes, 4400, Angel, Ghost Whisperer, Sanctuary, Being Human, Stargate: Atlantis, Lois & Clark, Warehouse 13, Lost Girl, Star Trek Enterprise, 4/5 seasons.

  • Even shows for hard core sci fi fans — Quantum Leap, Sliders, Farscape, Andromeda, Lexx, Kyle, Eureka —  have lasted at least 5 seasons.

  • UK science fiction shows:  Doctor Who, 36 seasons and counting.  Red Dwarf, 12 seasons and counting.  Misfits, Sarah Jane Adventures, Primeval, Being Human, Merlin, 5 seasons each; Blake’s 7 and Torchwood, 4 seasons each.

Pixel Scroll 2/9/17 Scroll-A-Post, Scroll-A-Post, Will You Do The Fendango?

(1) CON CRUNCH. Crunchyroll has announced it will launch a new anime convention called Crunchyroll Expo (CRX). The con will be held August 25-27 in Santa Clara, California at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Assuming CRX is repeated in 2018 on a comparable weekend, it would take place in Santa Clara on the weekend following Worldcon 76 in the San Jose McEnery Convention Center on August 16-20, 2018.

It would be worse if CRX was going to precede the Worldcon (and far worse if it was on the same weekend), but there’s always a question of how much time and money fans in an area have to devote to conventions, and which one they’ll choose.

(2) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Paste Magazine names “6 Classic Sci-Fi Stories That Inspired This Week’s Supergirl.

  1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers Are your friends and loved ones acting strangely? Are they acting a bit too much like themselves? Are they too understanding, too calm, too patient, too willing to listen to you whine about how they’ve let you down without defending themselves? Bad news, my friend: They’ve been body snatched.

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers franchise encompasses several movies, thematic connections to multiple authors—including Robert Heinlein, whose 1951 novel The Puppet Masters provided the loose inspiration for the film version—and even a Bugs Bunny cartoon. (It’s called Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers, and it’s perfect.) All revolve around the paranoia that the people we know could one day be replaced by identical alien life forms with no discernable difference. So when M’gann, Winn, and later Alex turn out to be white Martians in disguise, those feelings of uncertainty and paranoia come straight out of the Body Snatchers bag of tricks.

Originally meant as a metaphor for communism and the Cold War—and, really, when was anything not originally meant as a metaphor for communism and the Cold War—Supergirl ups the ante on Snatchers by taking a more personal route. It’s a horrifying idea: That you could be spilling your most difficult-to-process and embarrassing feelings to a person you think is your closest friend, only to find out that the person literally isn’t who you think he is. Try hard not to think about it the next time you’re talking to your crush.

(3) OUTSIDE THE MILSF BOMB BAY. “Military science fiction doesn’t have to just be about space battles and glory,” says the blurb. “It can examine why we, as a culture, choose to make war—and how we can change.” Elizabeth Bonesteel discusses “The Future of War, Peace, and Military Science Fiction” at Portalist.

…And paradoxically, when we define soldiers as bigger than life, it makes it easier for us to point fingers if something goes wrong. They’re trained. They should know better. It can’t possibly be our fault.

It is our fault. It’s always our fault. War is a choice. But the more we blunt our perception of the people we send to do this work, the easier it is for us to abdicate responsibility for how serious the decision really is.

Fiction of all types is a game of what-ifs. Military science fiction takes a particular angle: What if this was what a futuristic military force looked like? What if this is what it was used for? What is it like for the soldiers themselves? Even the most jingoistic military science fiction puts the reader in the mind of a soldier, and that in itself is a humanizing act.

But I think more than humanizing the soldiers themselves, military science fiction has a role to play in illuminating why we choose war. As with all speculative fiction, the power lies in being able to set up an impossible scenario, and ask concrete questions about it. Government and military can be structured in any way at all, or even be at odds with each other—weapons are, after all, a uniquely dispassionate way of upsetting the balance of power. Add to this a government with complex motives for choosing to deploy their defenses, and you can examine our current society through an infinite number of lenses.

(4) MORE ON WAR. David Brin and Catherine Asaro respond to the question “Can science fiction help prevent a nuclear war?” at PRI.

Long before David Brin became a scientist and author, he practiced duck-and-cover drills in his elementary school classroom. And because the threat of nuclear war hung over his childhood, it has become a big part of his fiction.

“The teacher would be talking away, and suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, say, ‘Drop!’” Brin recalled. “That’s how much time you’d have if you noticed the flash of a nuclear blast.” He was so conscious of nuclear risks that he wanted his own fallout shelter. “I wanted my mother to buy a used tanker car from the railroad, and bury it in our backyard.”

In a recent conversation with Catherine Asaro, a physicist and sci-fi writer, Brin said his most famous book, “The Postman,” brought about a kind of catharsis for him. “I used that book, deliberately, to discharge a lot of the stress of having grown up all my life, wondering — is this the day mushroom clouds appear on the horizon?” Brin said.

…“I don’t think that fear has gone away,” said Asaro, who has written many “hard science fiction” novels about space, technology and the military. In her opinion, readers today are even more aware of the dangers that society faces. But she believes the fear of catastrophe no longer centers on nuclear weapons.

“It’s increased, to the point where it’s not just nuclear winter anymore,” Asaro said. In recent years, many sci-fi writers have explored the dangers of climate change, cyberwarfare and advanced artificial intelligence.

(5) PRATCHETT SPECIAL AIRS SATURDAY. Boing Boing has the story — “The BBC will air a docudrama on Terry Pratchett’s life and his struggle with Alzheimer’s” .

Paul Kaye plays Pratchett in Back in Black, based on Pratchett’s unfinished autobiography; it will air on Saturday.

The doc covers the frustrations, discrimination and discouragement that Pratchett encountered as a working class pupil with a variety of speech impediments, and on what Neil Gaiman called Pratchett’s ‘quiet rage’, which fuelled him to literary stardom and enabled him to write seven novels even as Alzheimer’s stole his mind.

The irreverent trailer hints at a programme that will treat Pratchett with the kind of anger and compassion he brought to his own work and life.

 

(6) ASK HURLEY. Kameron Hurley participates in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session today at 8 p.m. EST, which will be over by the time you read this but the transcript will be online.

(7) JUST SAY KNOW. And Hurley has a new blog post – “Yes, You Can Say No to Your Editor(s)”. Well, if you’ve negotiated your contract correctly…

Listen. I’m going to tell you a secret, which you should already know if you’re a pro writer, but is especially useful for new writers to hear. Nobody tells you what to write in this business. They may say, “Hey, I’d like to see a space opera from you,” or “Hey, you know, the gay guy dies here and that’s not a great trope. Sure you want to do that?” but no one will make you change anything. I mean, if you really can’t come to an agreement, you can publish that shit up on Amazon tomorrow, easy peasy. I know writers who actually argue with their copyeditors in the manuscript comments, and this always makes me roll my eyes. Why are you arguing? You’re the author. It will say in your contract, if you and your agent are diligent, that no changes can me made to the manuscript which you don’t approve of. That’s a pretty standard clause that has been in all of my contracts. Now, if you’re like, “I totally want to load a bunch of typos in this book!” you could also, even, do that for stylistic reasons! I know, it’s amazing.

(8) CRAWFORD AWARD. Charlie Jane Anders has won the 2017 Crawford Award for All the Birds in the Sky.

The award will be presented at the 38th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts taking place March 22-26 in Orlando, Florida.

(9) DS9 REMEMBERED. The makers of a documentary about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are crowdfunding some production costs through Indiegogo. They’ve raised $114,777 of their $148,978 goal with a month to go.

Now, over twenty years later, fans all over the world are rediscovering Deep Space Nine and embracing the show with an enthusiasm rivaling the affection they feel for any other Star Trek series. Critics are even calling the show the Jewel in the Crown and the best of the Star Trek franchise. A devoted sci-fi fan might rightly ask themselves; “What the hell happened?”

Our documentary film, What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, will take a detailed look at this historic series and consider the reasons Deep Space Nine went from a family outcast to a Star Trek mainstay.  The film will also contain a “what if” segment in which the original writers brainstorm a theoretical 8th season of the show.

Spearheaded by original show-runner Ira Steven Behr, directed by Adam Nimoy (For the Love of Spock), and with a handful of key interviews already ‘in the bag,’ the #DS9Doc now needs YOUR HELP to reach completion by finishing filming, editing, and post-production.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Crack cultural researcher John King Tarpinian assures me this is Pizza Day. Quoting his source —

History of Pizza Day

You can say that Pizza Day started in the 10th century in Naples, Italy. This is when records first show the presence of pizza….

Pizza made its mark on America in 1905. In New York City, a pizzeria called Lombardi’s created the spark that would light hearts across the country from then until now — and with no conceivable end in sight! Amazingly, they are still in business! If you want to taste that first real pizza to hit American shores, head over to Little Italy in Manhattan and check them out.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • February 9, 1928 — Frank Frazetta

(12) FROM PHONE AGE TO STONE AGE. The BBC asks “What if the internet stopped working for a day?”. Sounds tempting to me… And I love that the name of the researcher is “Borg.”

…For a start, the impact to the economy may not be too severe. In 2008, the US Department of Homeland Security asked Borg to look into what might happen if the internet went down. Borg and his colleagues analysed the economic effects of computer and internet outages in the US from 2000 onwards. Looking at quarterly financial reports from the 20 companies that claimed to be most affected in each case, as well as more general economic statistics, they discovered that the financial impact of an outage was surprisingly insignificant – at least for outages that lasted no more than four days, which is all they studied.

“These were instances where enormous losses were being claimed– in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars,” Borg says. “But while some industries like hotels, airlines and brokerage firms suffered a bit, even they didn’t experience very big losses.”

(13) ENDLESS REPLAY. Be your own “grateful dead” concert. Nerdist reports “A Company Will Press Your Ashes into a Working Vinyl Album”. Sounds like something Connie Willis would list in that section of her GoH speech about things science fiction predicted (that everyone in the audience recognizes it didn’t.)

When the final track of your life finishes playing, how would you like to be remembered? Do you want to be buried and forgotten like a bad solo album? Or would you like to be encased for posterity like a big platinum record? Or maybe you hope to continue being heard, like a legendary musician that lives on forever. Well, if you hope to have your song play long after you’ve left the recording studio of life, there’s a way for that to happen–literally–by having your ashes pressed into a vinyl record.

(14) LATE SHOW SF NAME-DROPPING. While bantering with Paul Giamatti, Colbert reels off a library’s worth of his favorite sf writers – begins at the 6:28 mark in this clip from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS-TV). Authors mentioned include Asimov, de Camp, Dick, Ellison, Heinlein, Kuttner, Niven, Cordwainer Smith, Tolkien, Vance…

(15) BILL IS BACK. And Netflix has got him.

Bill Nye – science guy, educator, mechanical engineer, and curator of curiosity – returns with a new show. Each episode of Bill Nye Saves the World tackles a specific topic or concept through lively panel discussions, wide-ranging correspondent reports from a crackerjack team, and Bill’s very special blend of lab procedure and sly personality.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Petréa Mitchell, JJ, Standback, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]